Senator pushes exploration and maritime studies in disputed WPS


Prodding scientists and researchers to step up explorations in pursuing maritime studies in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) territory, Sen. Panfilo Lacson assured they should feel free to explore the area, along with tourists.

In a news statement issued on Tuesday, Lacson, Partido Reporma chairman and presidential candidate, suggested scientists and researchers could go and explore the main Pag-Asa Island and nearby areas in the WPS to expand their maritime research and even “unearth the ecological riches these islands can provide the Philippines.”

Interviewed by CNN Philippines’ “The Source,” the senator suggested that the continuing presence of scientists and researchers, and not just Filipinos but also from all nations, will “help preserve the balance of power in the region and make aggressor countries think twice about moving into and claiming these features” in the WPS.

Lacson noted that ongoing construction projects on Pag-Asa Island will “allow more people to visit the country’s western front and see for themselves the extent of the Philippines’ natural resources in the area.”

He also listed the recent developments in the remote Philippine territory that now include an improved road network, a deep water port, and the planned expansion of the Pag-Asa airstrip into a bigger runway to accommodate larger aircraft.

The senator’s suggestions dovetailed with the recent announcement by the Duterte administration  that it is reactivating the Marine Research Center on Pag-asa Island, noting that the University of the Philippines and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) are sending a team to the center in January 2022.

“So, aside from sending scientists from UP and DOST to the area, why not invite foreign scientists as well?” Lacson said. “I think they will be interested to get involved because the WPS area, masyadong malawak and very rich in aquatic resources,.”

In the same interview, the Partido Reporma standard bearer told CNN’s Pinky Webb:   “Parang subliminally, kapag merong foreign scientists doon, parang naka-enhance na rin ng defense posture because China, knowing there are foreign scientists in the area, they will think ten times before invading the area, which is a possibility by the way.”

Lacson likewise told Webb over CNN: “Gusto ko lang bigyan ng credit ang mga tao sa Pag-Asa, especially the troops who are stationed there. The first time I saw them, kita ko agad ang patriotism in their hearts. My heart goes out to them for staying there (despite the meager resources on the island),” the former National Police chief added.

On Saturday (November 20), Lacson, sitting chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense, visited the remote Pag-Asa Island, located 225 kilometers from Ayungin
Shoal, to personally check on the safety situation of the island.

The senator’s visit came four days after a China Coast Guard ship blocked and water-cannoned two supply ships seeking to deliver to the BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin, an act roundly called “abhorrent” by President Rodrigo Duterte and condemned by the international community.

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